Since I have been asked for advise and recommendations many times during the last weeks regarding the “right gear” I sat down and compiled my gear list again. This Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) gear list includes everything I have used on my thru-hike in 2017. You will see it also includes a few tips and tricks, recommendations & explanations on why and how I used certain items. At the end of the article you’ll find an overview table with all items and weight. Also check out the Gear section on my site for further info.

Overview

I started out with more and different gear at the beginning of my Pacific Crest Trail journey. Even though I thought I knew what I would need based on my previous experience I changed and optimized quite a few things along the way again. You never stop learning. The most commonly used reference is the one of your “base weight”. It includes everything which is in your backpack including the pack itself without food and water. And you usually do not count what you are wearing as your minimal/standard outfit.

I managed to lower my base weight to only 5.4kg (6.6kg incl. my camera gear)! When I saw the numbers earlier I was surprised myself..

Since most of the gear and thoughts are still valid I have recycled a lot from my original post which I put together before I started. If you want to read some background info and compare to what I have now feel free to check out the Post “My Gear List…


What to pack?

First of all, everybody has a different comfort zone! So there is no right or wrong.
Every environment is different and requires different equipment!
You should never risk your health or even life by under-packing and not being prepared!

The main questions to consider are usually:
What weather will I have to expect? What will be the lowest temperatures?
How remote will I be and how quickly can I escape or receive help in an emergency situation?

This will determine a lot when it comes to the right equipment. The big three are usually your backpack itself, the tent and the sleeping bag. Tent and sleeping bag will depend on the conditions – how stable does the tent have to be (e.g. very stable in Patagonia with a lot of wind and no shelter, less in New Zealand where you can usually camp in the forest and have shelter) and how warm and big does your sleeping bag (and with this usually also the cloth) have to be. By volume and size of all these things you will be able to choose a backpack.

 

Backpack:

Most important with a backpack is that it fits your back. They all have different harnesses and fit different backs. So make sure to try many. The other features are less important. If you carry heavier loads >15kg you want to have a good hip belt or otherwise you will have bruises on your hips and it’s uncomfortable on longer hikes.

My backpack of choice is now the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest. It’s specially designed for ultra-light hikers with a 40l volume and only weighs 811g (in comparison my Osprey 50l bag weighs about 1,8kg!) and it is waterproof in itself. It helps you only taking the things you really need since there is not a lot of space 😉. As a reference my bag is maybe half full with all my gear. The rest is “reserved” for food and I usually fit 5 days in it easily. I would not recommend it with a permanent weight over 15kg, but if you exceed it in the first days of a long hike because of food it should be ok since you will get lighter every day.

I also have a Zpacks Backpack Shoulder Pouch on one of my shoulder straps for my phone, ND filter and snacks.

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Tent:
ll prefer a tent over a tarp. Even though the days of rain on the PCT are very limited I find it easier to keep things clean, have a protection against mosquitos and stay dry in a tent. Especially since I don’t carry a lot of spare cloth or rain protection and I usually do get wet during the day if it rains. So I really need to stay dry and warm in the night – but that’s me. Along the way I changed my tent again. I started out with the MSR Hubba NX Solo which for a free standing tent only weighs 1.12kg and has a good stability. But again, the lighter you can get the more fun. So I switched to the Zpacks Solplex which is an incredible tent. It is made out of Dyneema Composite Fabric (also known as Cuban Fibre) which is highly durable and super lightweight with 439g only! Including 8 stakes with 60g the total weight of the tent comes down to 499g. Comfort, space and durability are amazing. Keep your vestibules open for ventilation since in a single wall tent you do get condensation very quickly. It’s not cheap with 555US$ but it’s well worth every cent if you sleep in it every day.

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Sleeping bag & sleeping pad:
ightest and smallest version is always down. The higher the number of the filling (e.g. 850) the better the quality of the down and therefore the less you need for the same insulation. I started out with a Western Mountaineering Summerlite sleeping bag which is rated for +6C comfort and a max of 0C plus a silk liner (120 gr.) to protect the sleeping bag from oil and fat and it gives a bit more of insulation if I need it in cold nights. I had a few cold nights below freezing and used my rain jacket and my backpack as a sack wrapped around my feet for extra insulation in cold nights – just make use of whatever you have if you need it. It was ok but when we hit the Sierra Nevada and the potential risk of camping on snow I changed it to the Western Mountaineering UltraLight which weighs 822g and is rated to -7C. Most nights it was way to warm and I only used it as a blanket. In some cold nights in the Sierras & North Cascades I was happy to have it. If you want to go “Ultralight – freeze at night” I would go with the Summerlite and deal with a few uncomfortable nights.

Due to packing size I opted for an inflatable sleeping mattress. I am not a fan of the bulky foam pads which you always have to attach to the outside dangling around. The Sea to Summit UltraLight Mat is my choice since it is light and through the air chamber also gives the best possible insulation from the ground.

Sleeping mattress, liner & sleeping bag in waterproof pack-sack

Cooking:
people go without a stove and only eat cold or dry stuff. Apparently it works but I wouldn’t want to go without one proper meal per day. So I carry a very small and light weight (83g) gas stove from Optimus Crux and a small gas canister. For cooking I have a 1.5l Trangia hardanodized ultralight aluminium cooking pot, the aluminum handle and Sea to Summit plastic spoon.

My main water container is a cheap 1l Powerade plastic bottle – it does the job perfectly, is way lighter than the “proper” ones, the outflow of the Powerade bottle has the perfect size so that you can drink while walking (better than the Powerade one), you can replace it once in a while if it gets to nasty and it costs almost nothing! I use a Sawyer Squeeze water filter (the Sawyer Mini is fine if you only have to filter water once a week or so but if you need it every day in the desert for several liters you will go nuts…) and a 2l Platypus to use with the Sawyer and to carry more water if needed. And if I knew that I had to carry 6 or more liters in a stretch I bought 1 or 2 big water bottles on the last stop and used them as long as I needed them.

I also have two stuff sacks (10l and 15l) for my food. It helps to easier squish the food into the backpack and I always separate breakfast & dinner from snacks. By doing that I can bury the breakfast & dinner bag in my pack and only have to take to bag with the snacks out during the day

(What I don’t carry anymore different to before the trail and on the picture: camel bag, water bottle)

Clothes:
to carry as little as I can. Therefore I don’t take anything which can’t be used on top of each other for the worst case scenario. Don’t over-pack – yes, you will be smelly and a bit sticky. But everybody is out there. You’ll get used to it. Not showering for ten days sounds really bad at the beginning but it’s actually not. And once in a while there is also a river to jump in if you are desperate 😉

I usually hike in a Icebreaker merino wool t-shirt, my beloved red/pink swimming pants, short Icebreaker merino socks and my favorite Salomon Speedcross4 trail runners. To protect my socks and shoes from the insight I use very small Outdoor Research Sparkplug gaiters. As sun protection I have my new and cool Prana hipster cap 😎.

Rain gear: Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket & Vaude Drop Pants II rain pants – for heavy conditions and when temperatures drop below 0C with rain and wind.
Patagonia Nano Puff jacket with Prima Loft Gold is the piece which keeps me warm in camp or breaks – very small and very warm. I find Prima Loft better on long distance hikes since it even warmth you if it’s wet, it dries quickly and you can easily wash it – different to down.
Icebreaker Descender Long Sleeve merino wool jumper – early in the morning or later in the day on cold and windy days I like to wear this one. Primaloft or down is to warm to walk in.<br
cold days I carry a thin Icebreaker merino beanie, a Buff (neck gaiter) and a pair of Icebreaker Sierra gloves.<br
m shorts have a mesh inside I don’t wear underwear. It also helps for better ventilation, less sweating and rubbing. So I only carry one pair of merino underwear to sleep in.<br
as I carried were one Icebreaker merino t-shirt which is not really necessary – but it is nice sometimes e.g. in towns after a shower when waiting for the laundry to be done. But you don’t need it. If its wet I either try to keep in on and dry it with body heat or I take it off and wear my jumper. It sucks in the morning to put it on again but after 20 minutes of exercising it’s usually dry. In Oregon I changed one Icebreaker t-shirt for a long sleeve shirt because of the mosquitos and kept it to the end. I also have one pair of extra socks in case a sock breaks down. This usually happens quickly. I went through a pair in 3-4 weeks. Your feet are the most important part on this journey – you do want to do anything possible to prevent blisters and/or injuries! Other than that you only need one pair. Why? How many can you wear? Exactly. If they smell you wash them in a break. If they are wet? Then you walk in wet socks. If it rains on consecutive days even dry socks are wet after 20 minutes so there is no sense in putting dry ones on to into your wet shoes…

(What I don’t carry anymore different to before the trail and on the picture: hat, rain skirt, thermal pants, towel)

Left: my “carry-on”, Right: my outfit

Medics and hygienic How to go light: Try to buy the smaller sizes. No need to carry 200ml of something that will last for 2 month. Resupply more often. I have seen people carrying regular bottles of everything ending up with 3-4kg of liquids 🙈

My daily hygienic consisted out of a small and cut off tooth brush + toothpaste, contact lenses and cleansing fluid (extra pair and a few daily lenses in case of an eye infection), nail clipper, comb for my beard – therefore no razor 😂 and an amount of toilet paper suitable for the days – don’t carry an entire roll!

In case shit happens. How much can you do in the wilderness? If it’s a minor thing you usually don’t really have to do anything and if it’s a big thing (broken bones, etc.) you can’t heal yourself anyways. So the only thing you have to do is get out and get help. So I am not a big fan of carrying a lot of stuff. For the heavy stuff I rely on painkillers (Ibuprofen), the cable ties and ductape.

I also carry Imodium for diaria (how many do you need? Not the entire pack for sure, just enough to get you out in case it hits you), a cream for eye infection which happens quickly with contact lenses, a couple disinfection/alcohol tissues (also work great if you have to clean camera lenses or surfaces before you repair / glue them). And a few Antihistamine pills after my shocking 25 sting-wasp-experience.

For the smaller issues and especially my feet I have a small roll of plaster tape (Mefix) which is a sticky plaster to seal open wounds and a 2m strip of Leuko Surgical Tape wrapped around a solid plastic tube: it’s the only tape which really works. The adhesive is incredible and even stays on feet for days when they get wet. Don’t try anything else!

Last but not least a 30ml sunscreen tube and a Ziploc bag to store everything.

(What I don’t carry anymore different to before the trail and on the picture: Voltaren, Aspirin, hand sanitizer, bio degradable washing lotion, ear plugs)

Repair kit Minimal as well. Tape and cable ties will fix most problems temporarily or even long term. For the electronics I only carry my iPhone for backup navigation (bad weather, emergency situations) and to write the blog.

Sufficient amount of ductape wrapped around my trekking poles so I don’t have to carry it in the backpack fixes everything: equipment and also small injuries.
Opinel Knife No. 6, a stripe of special waterproof repair tape for tents, rain jackets and repair kit for my air mattress, 6 cable ties, super glue, a spare lighter, a 10m MSR Ultralight Utility Cord (cloth line, rope to hang food and possible repair kit) and 2 small carabiners to hang food. On top I carried 4 one gallon Ziploc bags as emergency and rain gloves and socks and a small stuff sack to store everything.

Electronics USB charger with double port, my iPhone in a waterproof Lifeproof Case – also my fall back navigation and emergency (if I have reception) device, a Goal Zero Flip 20 Powerbank for two charges. A Black Diamond Ion headlamp for hikes during night time and everything else when it’s dark. And I have a small Zpacks Wallet Zip Pouch for credit cards &, ID and all of it goes into a 3l Osprey Ultralight Dry Sack. (What I don’t carry anymore different to before the trail and on the picture: compass & maps which you won’t need for the PCT,

The only luxury equipment – my camera Photography is one of my passions. So I can’t go without a proper camera. I tried to find a compromise between a full DSLR camera which is to bulky and heavy and a smaller one which will still give me a very high quality. For the last 2 years I have used my Olympus OMD EM10II with a micro four thirds sensor and the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14–150mm 1:4.0–5.6 II lense. It only weighs 1018g including the lense, battery and memory card which is significantly less than a comparable SLR.

On top I have 2 spare battery, 2 SD memory cards, cleaning wipes, a grey filter and the camera battery charger.

And I also finally found a way to attach my camera to my backpack so that I can always use it without taking my backpack off or it dangling around and being annoying. The Peak Design clip straps the camera to your shoulder belt. It’s fixed, secured and you still have easy access to it. And after two years of heavy usage I can only highly recommend this thing including the shell to protect your camera from dust and rain. If you take the extra weight of a good camera with you this clip is a must item – if you have your camera in your pack you’ll never use it and just carry dead weight around! Peak Design Pro clip for the backpack & Peak Design Shell for protection. Use the link to get a free gift 😉

PS: Unfortunately my camera went swimming 3 weeks before the end. So I had to replace it on the go. I have to admit that I used this excuse to directly upgrade to the OMD EM1 II with a 12-100 Pro Lense. It is significantly heavier (+460g) but I will also use it for non hiking purposes now. On long hikes I might try to use the old lense if I can repair it. For the packing list I include my old camera since it was the one I used.

Additional gear Most of the time I also carried the following items on top:
Tyvek (1,60m x 0,60m) to sit / lay on especially when wet, dusty or spiky.

Leki Khumbu hiking poles which I always use. It’s said that they save you up to 30% of energy in your legs since you use your upper body which normally is not used when hiking.

Suunto Core Watch. Simple watch, altimeter and compass. I am not a fan of GPS watches since they use a lot of battery which you don’t have out there.

Additional 32oz Gatorade (big opening) pee-bottle for the night. I hate getting out of the tent at night. Probably one of my most favorite items 😊

Cheap and simple flip flops for camp & city to air out my feet

Temporary items On long hikes one very helpful thing is to mail things ahead to the place where you will really need them and then also to send them off afterwards. Also don’t carry anything for 5 month. Carry as much as you need to get to the next resupply point or as much as you need to stay safe. For some conditions you need extra equipment, an extra layer or other special items. On the PCT I temporarily carried:

Thermarest sit pad for the stretches with snow, micro spikes & ice axe for the Sierra Nevada and a mosquito head net for Oregon.

The entire gear list in a quick overview:

(Some links in the table are affiliate links)
Item
Product
Weight
The hiking outfit
T-shirt
130g
Shorts
130g
Socks
40g
Shoes
650g
Gaiters
34g
Sun protection
100g
Trekking poles
600g
Watch
64g
1.748g
The big three
Backpack
811g
Pouch for backpack
14g
Tent
439g
Stakes
MSR Ground Hog Mini tent stakes (8)
80g
Sleeping bag
822g
Waterproof stuff sack
25g
Sleeping pad
356g
2.547g
Cooking
Cooking pot
Trangia Pot incl. handle
142g
Stove
83g
Fire
Lighter
10g
Spoon
10g
Water filter
89g
Water container
40g
Water Bottle
Powerade
50g
Food bag
50g
474g
Cloth
Rain jacket
180g
Rain pants
180g
Down jacket
360g
Jumper
376g
Beanie
32g
Neck gaiter
40g
Gloves
40g
Socks
40g
Stuff sack
55g
1.303g
Medics & Hygienics 
Teeth
Half tooth brush
7g
Teeth
Tooth paste
24g
Contact lenses
Case, solution, extra pair
80g
Eye
Eye infection creme
3g
Nails
Standard small nail clipper
21g
Beard
Comb
6g
Toilet paper
Amount depends on days.
30g
Pain killer
Ibuprofen
15g
Diaria
Imodium
4g
Disinfection
4 alcohol pads
1g
Tape
30g
Antihistamine
6 capsules
7g
Sunscreen
30ml
34g
262g
Repair kit
Tape
Ductape wrapped around trekking pole
Fixation
6 cable ties
6g
Knife
28g
Repair gear
1m Dyneema Composite Fabric
60g
Repair gear
Special tape for air mattress
10g
Repair gear
Tenacious tape
15g
Repair gear
Super glue
15g
Rope
33g
Hanging food
2 small carabiners
20g
Stuff sack
15g
202g
Electronics
Charger
USB with double port & iPhone cable
66g
Battery pack
135g
Phone & navigation
iPhone 6S
145g
Waterproof case
35g
Headlamp
55g
Battery
2 spare batteries for headlamp
22g
Wallet
7g
Stuff sack
20g
485g
Camera
Camera
Olympus OMD EM1 II (incl. battery & SD)
390g
Lense
M.ZUIKO Digital ED 14-150mm 1:4.0-5.6 II
285g
Battery
2 extra Olympus batteries
90g
Memory card
2x SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB
40g
Camera clip
Peak Design Pro clip
140g
Camera rain cover
Peak Design rain cover
113g
Charger
Olympus charger & cable
115g
1.173g
Additional Gear
Ground sheet
Tyvek 1,60 x 0,60m
100g
Pee-bottle
Gatorade 1l bottle
50g
150g
Total base weight
5.423g
Total base weight incl. camera
6.596g
Weight on the hiker
1.748g

 

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